Opponents of legalized euthanasia, when not using the ridiculous “slippery slope” argument, will often try and portray the debate as a moral dilemma. Therefore an important clarification needs to be made. If an individual is deciding whether or not to commit euthanasia, this is a moral issue. If politicians are debating a law prohibiting individuals from committing euthanasia, this is a political issue.
The question at hand is not whether euthanasia is a moral action, but whether the government has the power to force life on those who no longer wish to live. Does the individual have power over his or her own life, or is this something we have given up to the government?
Of course to a large extent this debate is theoretical, since laws prohibiting suicides are among the hardest laws to enforce (if not the hardest). After all, what is to stop individuals from taking their own life in the obscurity of their own homes? And what punishment would be severe enough to act as a deterrent in order to frighten these individuals into reconsidering their actions?
Although there are many ways we as a society can fight suicide, simply making it illegal has never been all that effective. And it would be difficult to argue that the suicide rate would go up if euthanasia was made legal. Individuals who have made the traumatic decision to end their own life will not likely be influenced by such factors such as how legal their actions are or how easy it will be.
The benefit of legalizing euthanasia is that it can be ensured that the individual will depart from life peacefully and painlessly. This is not always the case with the various ways desperate suicide victims have found for killing themselves.
Of course this is not to say we should allow every depressed teenager access to Kevorkian’s machine. Standards would have to be imposed to ensure that the individual is of appropriate age, mental ability, and emotional state to make the decision. And herein lies a second benefit of legalizing euthanasia. When people come forward and ask for this treatment, they can be identified and everything possible can be done to try and change their minds. This would be a welcome difference from the all to common story of the individual who seemed perfectly happy, and then suddenly committed suicide.
Opponents of legalized euthanasia like to talk about the sacredness of life, but all of this rings somewhat hollow when one considers that the United States has one of the highest execution rates in the world. If we are truly concerned about the sacredness of life, or worried about a slippery slope towards a society where the unwanted are simply done away with, then this is the place where we should focus are attention. Under capital punishment, an individual has their life taken away from them against their will. And yet, often the same politicians who oppose legalized euthanasia are strong supporters of capital punishment. The hypocrisy of this dual stance is simply mind boggling.
To truly honor the sacredness of life we must recognize that the government does not have the power either to take life away from an individual, or to force life upon the individual.
As Christians, our fight against suicide and euthanasia must be ongoing. But, to take this fight into the legal arena is both counter-productive and inappropriate.
I hold onto the social libertarian view that government should not dictate people's private decisions. By extension of this I'm in favor of legalizing euthanasia, but it is not an issue I feel strongly about. I mean, there are a lot more injustices in the world.
Bork and Buma asked me to write this article because they needed a counter piece to Mulder's article against Euthanasia for Cross Roads. I agreed to do it, but the problem was that this ended up being the same Chimes issue as the Rhenquist affair. Because I ended up writing two -articles on Rehnquist, this Euthanasia article would mean 3 articles by me in the same issue.
The boys were reluctant to give that much space to one person. I was also worried about taking on two controversial subjects in the same issue. I didn't want to diminish my arguments against Rehnquist by having a controversial article on Euthanasia in the same issue. So I told Bork and Buma that if space became a consideration, they should chop the Euthanasia article first. They ended up doing this, so Mulder's article ran unopposed.